Review: Man of Steel (2013 movie)

While it was directed by Christopher Nolan, who previously did the Dark Knight series of Batman films, this is basically what you’d get if J.J. Abrams made a Superman movie, complete with something that resembles the planet-wrecking gizmo in the first Abrams Star Trek film.

Superman’s biological father Jor-El (Russell Crowe) isn’t just a scientist concerned with Krypton’s impending destruction, he’s pretty much Krypton’s version of Batman, though he also rides a flying reptile like the kid in How to Tame Your Dragon, and as a bonus comes back as a posthumous AI version of himself something like Marlon Brando in the 1980s Superman films.

Much of the plot is a scaled-up rehash of 1980’s Superman II. There are lots and lots of impressive fight scenes between super-powered Kryptonians on Earth, with horrific resulting wreckage that starts off with major potholes and laundromat damage in Smallville and builds to the demolition of most of downtown Metropolis with horrendous loss of life, though nobody seems all that upset about collateral damage unless the party being menaced is somebody we happen to know. That may be a bit of an exaggeration, but only a bit.

The character of Lois Lane could have been better written and better cast (though I’m otherwise a huge fan of Amy Adams), but there’s a quite nice twist on her suspecting Clark Kent of being Superman, and she gets the film’s best line at the end.

Henry Cavill, who plays Superman, gets the other good line a few minutes earlier. Otherwise the story has him brooding so constantly you might wonder if he’s limited to just one facial expression, like Grumpy Cat. I’ve read that the filmmakers concocted scenes to show him shirtless because he’d worked very hard on to achieve his physique and they didn’t want people to think the muscles were built into the suit. Those scenes didn’t do anything for me (except to make me think briefly about resuming my physical therapy), but tastes differ.

I didn’t hate Man of Steel and it does have its moments, but I don’t particularly recommend it.


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